The Sharp County Community Foundation held a grant awards luncheon May 31 at the Spring River Innovation Hub at Town Center in Cherokee Village.
Executive Director Dan Milligan explained the grants were made possible through the Sharp County Community Foundation’s (SCCF) Giving Tree.
“The grant reception we’re here for today is a culmination of our giving tree grant cycle. You all were applicants and this year in Sharp County alone, we had over 30 applicants and made nine grant awards and were able to grant $20,000,” Milligan said. “Last year we were able to give away $12,500. That serves as a good example of the role we play in the community.”
Milligan said the grants are made possible though donations given to the SCCF. The funds are then invested growing the funds which is then turned into grants.
John Beller, Chair for the SCCF then took to the podium to speak, recognizing Milligan and his leadership in the organization.
Beller than thanked Board Member Jonathan Rhodes for his service and stating his term had come to an end and welcomed incoming board members Donna Shaw and Lita King.
Although the SCCF is not a faith based organization, Beller shared a section of scripture, Psalms 144: 12-15
“This was part of my devotional this morning, and I felt it was very fitting. How universal the kind of things the community foundation emphasizes and the kinda of work our non-profits do. We want good lives for our children’s safety and well being, for security, safety and peace and food. Those desires are ancient and we still struggle to fulfill them,” Beller said. “You are making sure that there are no breaching of the walls and you’ve heard the cry of distress in the streets. Thank you to everyone here who is doing this work.”
Beller than invited the first grant recipient to join him at the podium.
“Our first organization is the Cave City First Assembly of God food pantry. They received $3,000 and it is a public food pantry that serves the Cave City area. They plan to use this to purchase food for the pantry,” Beller said.
A representative of the organization took a moment to share some of the history of the organization, stating the food pantry has been in existence for six years, feeding 200 families per month twice a month.
Susan Funnell of the Ash Flat Library was next to speak. Funnell explained the grant was for the Friends of the library who had received $2,000 to create a work station.
“Anita Hawkins started this project and has worked really hard to do this grant, gather the information on what we would need to do this memory lab and she’s done all of the work,” Funnell said.
The funds will be used to create a memory lab where the public can come to digitize photographs, preserve and convert VHS tapes to DVD format and more.
Lauren Siebert with Comfort Keepers Ministry was the third organization, and was awarded a grant for $2,900 to be used to help develop land and purchase equipment to create a memorial orchard and community garden.
“We had a setback after we first took ownership of the land and that has set us back a year because we will have to replace wiring, pipes and a well pump, but we are very appreciative of this grant. We plan to use it to purchase a greenhouse which will be placed on the property once we have power and security cameras up,” Siebert said.
Karen Bagwell with Safe Nite Ministries, who received $3,000, used the opportunity to inform the room of new programs which would soon be launched.
“We are humbled to be here. I used to pray that God would send me his broken and hurting. I’d hug them and they’d be healed and that sounds so dramatic but he has honored that prayer. People come to me they’re broken, they’re hopeless and through our volunteers and applicants they come in and understand people do care and that they’re not defined through the trauma they’ve lived through,” Bagwell said. “…We focus mainly on women; when we started it was a rescue program and now we’re recognizing the children. If you heal a momma the children will follow but we want to grow out and with the money we received, our plan is to start an education process for the children so they can learn healthy boundaries. If you open up conversations and they will just tell you what their problems are. We already have child care during our support groups but we’re going to buy some educational materials…”

Nanette Daugherty with the Hardy History Association was next. She said the organization received $1,100 to create a virtual tour of the museum so people with mobility challenges could also enjoy the entire facility.
“It used to be a dulcimer shop and recently we got more space downstairs open. When they are done, we will have a place where the TV will show the upstairs and it will be narrated as each display is shown,” Daugherty said. “For anyone who wants to learn about their community, they can come to the Hardy History Museum.”
Co-Administrator of the Mission of Hope, Julia Baldridge, said her organization had received $3,000 which will be used to set up and furnish a new building on the property.
“The mission of hope has been around since 2003 we had a shelter and it got shut down; we still have a food pantry and serve about 350 families a month; it’s not the same 350 every months those people change out but it runs average 350. John Kunkel said to me we’ve been using that number for ever and said ‘don’t you think you cold give me another’. In those in those families there are about 800 people that we are able to give food to and we couldn’t do it without organizations like this,” Baldridge said.
Mary Dewitt and Betty Stokes with Charlie’s Fund, a 501-c-3 dedicated to helping with medical costs associated with spay/neuter were awarded $500.
“Charlie’s Fund go to support the Cherokee Village Animal Control. We were able to do $500, but we were also able to access $2,000 from the Martha Barber Fund,” Beller said.
Dewitt said the funds were used between December of 2023 and March of this year allowing for the spay or neuter of 150 animals.
Since its inception more than 2,400 animals have been spayed or neutered and more than 225 animals have been assisted with necessary medical care.
Stokes said as recently as the week before, 100 animals were spayed or neutered. She explained pets can not be adopted from the shelter until they have been fixed and incoming funds such as those recently received make that possible.
The Arts Center of North Arkansas received $500 which will be used to help continue the Thursday Night Community Concert and to purchase more supplies for the center’s clay sculpture classroom.
“Our name is arts with an s, because we promote and teach all kinds of arts. I teach Thai Chi, we have music, all different types of art, our clay program is one of our strong points and so we’re gonna use some of the grant money to promote that,” ACNA President Keith Conklin said.
Doriane Dias with the Ozark Foothills Literacy project said the $2,000 her organization received will be used to provide additional literacy classes for children and adults.
“…We’re very grateful to have this grant. Even though we’re based out of Batesville, we serve Sharp County and we’re trying to have a bigger presence in all of our service areas. We’ve been a non-profit since 2008. ..We’re focusing on growth and we’ve doubled how many people were serving, we have an language exchange once a month… We are very interested in forming working partnerships, I want to get more services into this count, our mission, is empowering communities though literacy.”
Lindsey Kinkade, Chief Program Officer for the Arkansas Community Foundation took a moment to share an inspiring story about the impact of organizations like the SCCF and what non-profits, when equipped with the proper tools, can change communities for the better.
“I want to tell you, as we talk about community, part of our job is to create communities where our kids want to live. There is a small town in Arkansas called Lake Village. There was a woman who wanted to raise money to revive a building to house city hall. We raised the money and as I stood there looking at this dilapidated building, I couldn’t see what she could see. Because I was looking at what was in front of me, and she was looking five years down the road,” Kinkade said.
She said once the building was restored, something positive began to happen to the town.
“What is important about that was, it allowed it to happen other places. When parks and police departments moved. It created places non-profits could move in to. It led everyone to come together to connect all these things all because they renovated one building down town in a town of 2,500 down the Mississippi boarder.”
Prior to the close of the luncheon, Milligan returned to the podium to thank those in attendance once again.
“We are really humbled to be able to support you all. Thank you for all the work you do. A message you can take forward is to spread the message of what the foundation’s work is. It’s not just a donation, it’s an investment. That money sits in and grows and down the road we’re going to be giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s for all non-profits. All these non-profits that contribute so much to the community, they’re what were here to help. It’s not a dollar in and a dollar out it is one in and 30 out,” Milligan said. “Over the next month [June] we have a special opportunity. If we can raise an additional $10,000 [to reach a $40,000 goal] what will happen with that $40,000 is, it will be matched by the state. As you’re talking to friends and family throw a little shout out to the foundations to help us reach that last $10,000 because it [the $40,000] will be doubled.”
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Lauren is a an award-winning journalist who decided after 10 years of newspaper experience to venture out. Hallmark Times was born.